The Story (continued)
As her bodyguard, Johnny feels both desire and loathing for her. He only protects her because she "belongs" to the boss and he wishes to remain loyal. Mundson compounds the complex conflict inside Johnny by resuming their toast - he holds up his glass to the promiscuious woman in Johnny's past [Gilda]: "Disaster to the wench who did wrong by our Johnny." He foreshadows the clashing, sizzling love-hate relationship that they develop in each other's company. In voice-over, Johnny expresses how much the toast really frightened Gilda:
She had what it took to say it, but I knew it scared her. I knew it would haunt her - anyone as superstitious as Gilda outloud asking for disaster.
Despairing on her bed, Gilda is aware of the terrible position into which she has been placed. As Ballin helps her with her dress's zipper, she suggests: "I think that's good business to surround yourself with ugly women and beautiful men." When her benefactor's jealousy is aroused, she assures him that she didn't 'know' Johnny in her past - she implies that she is not interested in resuming an affair with him:
I'm telling you the truth. I didn't know him. I don't think I've ever known him, Ballin.
With totalitarian control, Ballin plots to use them against each other to vicariously feed his own appetite for hate and cynicism toward life:
Mundson: You're a child, Gilda, a beautiful greedy child. And it amuses me to feed you beautiful things because you eat with so good an appetite.
Gilda: But I shouldn't make any mistakes.
Mundson: No, you shouldn't.
Gilda: If you're worried about Johnny Farrell, don't be. I hate him.
Mundson: And he hates you. That's very apparent. But hate can be a very exciting emotion. Very exciting. Haven't you noticed that?...There's a heat in it that one can feel. Didn't you feel it tonight?
Mundson: I did. It warmed me. Hate is the only thing that has ever warmed me.
After winning at roulette in the casino, Gilda asserts the old superstition: "Lucky at cards, unlucky at love." To torture and inflame Johnny's jealous passions, Gilda dances and flirts with another good-looking male escort Gabe Evans (Robert Scott). When dragged from the casino dance floor by Johnny, Gilda delivers her most famous one-liner:
Didn't you hear about me, Gabe? If I'd been a ranch, they would've named me the Bar Nothing.
In the middle of the casino, Johnny covers up an attempt on Mundson's life and a suicide by a blackmailer by blaming everything on "gambling" losses. Ballin is shaken by the incident and confides in his right hand man. In his office, he shows Johnny a hidden wall safe and reveals its combination - it contains important papers about the casino's real cash cow - the international tungsten cartel. The power-obsessed tungsten monopolist Mundson confesses how he has used his wealth to establish his power: "The man who controls the strategic material can control the world, Johnny."
Later over a drink, Mundson tells Johnny about his mad obsession for Gilda and his worry that she may leave him. He explains how women are "funny little creatures...odd things are important to them...I bought her Johnny, just as I bought you...Money doesn't mean very much to Gilda. If she should become restless?...I'm mad about her, Johnny. Mad."
Johnny leaves his boss, knowing that he must loyally protect Ballin from knowing that Gilda is two-timing her husband with Gabe Evans: "I take care of everything that belongs to the boss." An assertive Gilda rhetorically asks: "What's his is yours?" and rebelliously rejects Johnny's loyal 'protection' of her for Ballin's sake:
Johnny: I got some news for you, Gilda. He didn't just buy something. He's in love with ya.
Gilda: Is that so hard to understand?
Johnny: And you're not going to do anything...
Gilda: I've got some news for you, Johnny. I'm going to do exactly what I please when I please. I was true to one man once, and look what happened. I made up my mind then...
Johnny: This isn't about us, it's about him.
Gilda: Really? You don't say so.
Johnny: And get this straight. I don't care what you do, but I'm gonna see to it that it looks all right to him. From now on, you go anywhere you please with anyone you please, but I'm gonna take you there and I'm gonna pick you up and bring you home. Get that? Exactly the way I'd take and pick up his laundry.
Gilda: Shame on you, Johnny. Any psychiatrist would tell you that your thought associations are very revealing.
Johnny: What are you talking about?
Gilda: Any psychiatrist would tell you that means something, Johnny.
Johnny: Did you hear what I said?
Gilda: Sure, I heard what you said. You're gonna take me there and pick me up - all to protect Ballin. Who do ya think you're kidding, Johnny?
Johnny: (voice-over after she leaves) I hated her so, I couldn't get her out of my mind for a minute. She was in the air I breathed, the food I ate...
Johnny lives and sleeps in the casino - in a bedroom (that was formerly Mundson's) that adjoins the office with louvered shutters. At five o'clock one morning, he is awakened by the wafting sounds of Gilda strumming and singing Put The Blame on Mame while accompanying herself with a guitar. Johnny observes and enters at the end of the song. She admits to Johnny that she married Ballin on the "rebound" from her relationship with him - although it was a foolish thing to do:
Gilda: Why don't you make it easy on yourself and let him find out about me, or are you afraid of what he might do to me? Johnny! I am...
Gilda: Oh Johnny, I wish I'd never...
Johnny: Never what?
Gilda: Getting married on the rebound is so stupid.
Johnny: Rebound from what?
Gilda: You. Because, you don't know a man you've only known one day.
Johnny: He doesn't know you either. That way, you start even. All fair and even.
Mutually tortured together, she tells him about her hatred for his cold and callous nature:
Gilda: Would it interest you to know how much I hate you, Johnny?
Johnny: Very much.
Gilda: I hate you so much I would destroy myself to take you down with me. Now I've warned you. Now that's all fair and even.
Johnny: All fair and even...Now would it interest you to know that I know why you're hanging around here at five o'clock in the morning?
Gilda: I told you. I'm the laundry. I'm simply obeying instructions.
Johnny: Now who's kidding who, Gilda?
When Johnny escorts Gilda to her home from the casino in the wee hours of the morning, Ballin appears. [Throughout the scene, Ballin's black silhouette occupies a portion of the frame.] After hearing an unlikely alibi that they were swimming together, he suspiciously wonders whether he may be losing Gilda to his hired man:
Ballin: You see, I thought I'd lost you.
Gilda: Me? Ha, ha. Not a chance.
Ballin: And that couldn't be replaced.
Johnny: (sarcastically) Should we have a drink before I start to cry?
Gilda: You see, Johnny doesn't think that would be a tragedy - if you lost me.
Johnny: Statistics show that there are more women in the world than anything else - except insects.
Festive preparations are made in the casino for Carnival "merry-making" (the last three days that precede Lent in Catholic countries) and Gilda pensively worries before departing for the party: "In other words, make hay while the sun shines...Three days of sowing wild oats, and then comes the harvest." She confesses to her maid that she feels "awfully superstitious...that for me too, it's Carnival."
In her bedroom, Mundson wants her room to be closed and sealed - suffocatingly devoid of excitement and emotion:
You're very excited about something tonight, my beautiful. Perhaps it's in the air. Perhaps you shouldn't have opened the window. Close it. (She slams the window shut to drown out the festive sounds.) There. See how quiet it is now? See how easily one can shut away excitement? Just by closing a window. Remember that, Gilda.
He goads her about being escorted by Johnny: "Oh, I want to have a look at you and your costume before you go. I see you're gonna carry a whip. Have you warned Johnny so that he can also arm himself?" Mundson also arms himself as he prepares to leave - he activates the sharp dagger hidden inside his cane.
During Carnival, their hatred for each other sizzles as the former lovers dance closely together, wearing small black racoon-eye masks. Gilda obviously still loves Johnny: "I have to keep talking, Johnny. As long as I have my arms around you, I have to keep talking or, I might forget to dance, Johnny." When they stumble, Gilda slyly offers: "I can help you get in practice again, Johnny. Dancing, I mean." He meanly pushes her away and she abruptly leaves the dance floor/party before the unmasking at midnight. After being abandoned, Gilda sends Johnny a handwritten note about where she can be fetched later on after another rendezvous with a different man at a hotel:
You can pick up the laundry in front of the Hotel Centenario. About two o'clock should be all right.
A German-speaking [Nazi] "messenger-boy" is discovered murdered during the unmasking at the Carnival celebration. Johnny suspects Mundson murdered the man with his "little friend." Johnny is instructed to retrieve Gilda and then: "Wait for me at home, Johnny. I may need both of my little friends tonight." Johnny finds Gilda outside the hotel at the appointed hour and drives her home, where she entices him with a sultry recollection and then reminds him that they are alone:
Gilda: Ballin was wrong, wasn't he?
Johnny: About what?
Gilda: He said you can shut out excitement by just closing your door. You can't, can you?
Johnny: I don't know what you're talkin' about.
Gilda: I was just mentioning how quiet it was in the house. There isn't anybody here but us, you know.
But Johnny is again loyal to his master. Johnny doesn't betray his boss by having an affair with Gilda, because he wants to punish her for not being faithful to Ballin. He is spiteful of Mundson's duplicitous wife, as he explains in voice-over:
I couldn't get it out of my head, what she said about nobody being in the house but us. I thought of Ballin back in the casino fighting for his life, and this little...I knew that all his plans, all his dreams of greatness would be wrecked because of what she was doing to him. I knew he wasn't strong enough to throw her out. I knew it was up to me. I had to get rid of her for him.